People living, working and studying in Renfrewshire are being encouraged to speak out if they notice signs that a child may be being sexually abused.
The call comes as part of Child Protection Committees Scotland and Barnardo’s Scotland’s new campaign What If You’re Right? and encourages the public to follow their instincts when they suspect harm could be taking place and report their concerns immediately.
The campaign has been designed with input from adult survivors of sexual abuse across Scotland and highlights the immediate and long-term consequences of child sexual abuse.
Tam Baillie, chair of Renfrewshire Child Protection Committee, has urged anyone with concerns not to ignore signs that something is seriously wrong for a child. He said: “Child sexual abuse is horrendous at the time but it can also cause lifelong physical and emotional damage. Trauma experienced as a result of child sexual abuse can ruin lives.”
Vicci, a child sexual abuse survivor who contributed to the campaign, endured sexual abuse by members of her extended family for many years, from a very young age. She said: “I was abused until I was about 10. I don’t remember a time where I wasn’t abused, where I wasn’t touched, where I wasn’t made to do things. That got progressively worse, I was probably younger than 8 when they started raping me.”
Being sexually abused as a child has had long lasting ramifications for Vicci. She added: “It’s impacted my life in ways I could never have imagined. I’ve been in very dark places, I’ve been suicidal, I’ve been hospitalised. Certain sounds and smells can make me physically sick, even particular words can trigger flashbacks, and put me in a vulnerable and unsafe position. I struggle with a fear of never knowing who’s around the next corner and trust is a huge issue too — when those people, the abusers, have told you that they love you but then hurt you terribly, how do you then trust other people?”
Both Child Protection Committees Scotland and campaign partner Barnardo’s Scotland acknowledge that people can be hesitant about acting on a gut feeling, but the organisations reaffirm how important it to speak up to help reduce lifelong damage to victims.
Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “It’s important that adults know how to spot the signs of child abuse and exploitation, and how to do something about it.”
Councillor Emma Rodden, convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Policy Board, has echoed the calls for everyone to help protect children. She said: “Keeping children safe from harm is everyone’s job. By reporting your concerns to our social work teams, you can help limit the long-term damage child sexual abuse can cause. It can be daunting to speak up, but I would encourage anyone who has concerns to please get in touch straight away. Your call could really help a child or young person.”
To report concerns of a child being abused, call social work on 0300 300 1199 (0300 343 1505 during evenings and weekends) or Police Scotland on 101.
If a child’s life is in immediate danger, call 999.
For more information on child protection, visit childprotection.scot or go to www.renfrewshire.gov.uk.article/3290/child-protection for Renfrewshire child protection information.